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Wuerl, D.C. archdiocese shot down on birth control coverage

| Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

WASHINGTON — The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington and the archdiocese's schools lost a bid to freeze a judge's order that requires them to provide cost-free coverage for contraceptive services to their employees.

U.S. District Judge Amy Jackson in Washington on Monday denied the request of Archbishop Donald Wuerl, formerly of Pittsburgh, to block her Friday order in which she rejected arguments that the requirement to provide cost-free coverage for contraceptive services violates religious freedom. The claims are “practically identical” to those the archdiocese made in a previous case that Jackson threw out in January, she said in her ruling.

The Supreme Court on Nov. 26 agreed to hear two cases brought by business owners who object on religious grounds to the birth-control mandate. The lawsuits by the for-profit employers, the craft store chain Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., will be the court's first look at President Obama's biggest legislative accomplishment since a majority of the justices upheld the core of the law in 2012.

Previously, appeals courts in Chicago, Denver and Washington ruled the mandate may violate religious freedom, while appellate panels in Philadelphia and Cincinnati had sided with the government.

Jackson's ruling conflicts with a Dec. 16 ruling by U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan in Brooklyn, N.Y., barring the government from enforcing the mandate against a group of New York-based Catholic health and educational organizations. This month, the University of Notre Dame filed a complaint in federal court in South Bend, Ind., challenging the law.

David Timothy Raimer, a lawyer representing the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington, didn't immediately return a call seeking comment on Monday's ruling.

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